The mother-infant bond is the familiarity and attachment a mother forms with her offspring. These helpless babies are reliant on their mother’s nurture for survival. This dependence reaches farther than a physiological need. Infants rely on their mothers for a wide variety of demands. The mother-infant bond is critical to maximizing the fitness of each individual, as well as the growth of the species.
In 1976 Marshall H. Klaus and John H. Kennell came out with a book called “Parent Infant Bonding”. It discussed their hypothesis that like other animals, there is a brief moment directly following the birth of a child where skin-to-skin contact between mother and offspring creates a strong bond. Although this theory continues to be supported by many, some criticized the process of Klaus and Kennell’s studies. Some of these criticisms likely came from their definition of a “critical” time period after birth.
According to Klaus and Kennell, there are specific events, including skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant that must occur directly following the birth of a primate infant. This maximizes the chances of survival for the newborn not only because their mother is a source of food, but also because they will learn the culture they need to be successful in their environment. In the study, Klaus and Kennell test how much time a baby spends crying when they are separated from their mother. They concluded the increased time in babies that were separated was due to the anxiety that separation caused. The difficulty in this is that the cause of the baby’s distress is subjective. Also the notion of critical period proposed that the bonds and lessons taught during that time could not be developed later.
Abraham Maslow originally observed the patterns described by his hierarchy of needs in primates and applied them to humans. The survival in most, if not all primates is dependent on the satisfaction of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These include physiological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Physiological needs are described as nutrition, sex, sleep, and warmth. Safety is the freedom from fear and a sense of security. The explanation for belonging is affection and love. Self-esteem is met by achievement, dominance, status, and respect. An individual reaching their full potential satisfies the concept of self-actualization.
Infants rely on their mothers to provide for their physical necessities. Mothers provide a food source from birth. Marshall Klaus found in his study “Mother and Infant: Early Emotional Ties” that newborns will crawl toward the mothers breast usually within the first hour of life. This suggests the mother’s role as a source of food is instinctive for both mother and infant. Chimpanzee mothers will remain in physical contact with their babies for the first 30 days of life. They will nurse their infants up to five years. Maternal care for infant primates is critical for their survival.